One opportunity led to another for Tyler Pezza.
And now, less than a year after he was set to bring his football career to a close, the former North Kingstown High School star is ready to continue it on Ivy League gridirons.
After a post-graduate season at Phillips Exeter Academy, Pezza has committed to play at Brown University. He’ll suit up as a wide receiver for the Bears beginning in the fall.
“Brown has sort of been the first choice since after my junior year,” Pezza said. “I’ve been talking to them for the last two years. It didn’t end up working out last year. I had put my deposit down for the University of Utah and was not going to play college football at all. And then in early May, there was a spot at Phillips Exeter for a post grad year so I took it and it has worked out perfectly since then.”
Playing football in the Ivy League had been the dream for a while, but as he waited for a chance, Pezza came to terms with the fact that it might not happen. Last spring, while starring for the Skippers in the rescheduled Rhode Island high school football season, Pezza decided to move on. He picked Utah, where he would not play football. He loves to ski and was looking forward to the chance to live out west. He could cheer for the PAC-12 powerhouse Utes football team.
“I thought I was done until like halfway through the spring last year,” Pezza said.
Late last season, a new possibility emerged. Phillips Exeter had an opening for a post-grad. Pezza was skeptical at first, but as he learned more about the school and what it could mean, he decided to give it a shot. If the extra season didn’t open a door, then so be it. But it did.
“One of my friend’s dad had a connection there,” Pezza said. “I really had no idea what prep school really was. At first, I was like, ‘I’m not doing that,’ even though it was a good opportunity. But I applied anyway and got in, and I decided to do it. I’m definitely happy I did. It was obviously the right choice.”
Phillips Exeter went 2-6 in its NEPSAC Class A campaign. Pezza enjoyed the challenge of lining up opposite future Division I players.
“I think I’ve had more fun just playing football this year,” he said. “Obviously, playing football with my friends and winning championships at North Kingstown was awesome. But just playing high level competition and grinding it out against players who were better than I was, it was a lot of fun just playing football and kind of being an underdog.”
Pezza should fit right in with the Bears as an athletic and physical wide receiver. With the Skippers, he put up highlight reels for three seasons. He was part of the title-winning 2018 team as a sophomore, then became an all-state performer for another Super Bowl squad in 2019. He made the routine catches and the spectacular ones in an 800-yard, seven-touchdown campaign. In the spring 2021 season, he earned first-team all-state honors again.
On the East Side, Pezza will join another high-powered offense. Brown had the top passing offense in the Ivy League last fall. Three of the top 12 receivers in the league were Bears. Two of them earned all-Ivy League honors.
“It’s close to home, which is nice,” Pezza said. “Part of me wanted to go away and experience a different area, different people, but it’s still nice to be close to home and close to my family and friends. Obviously, the academics speak for themselves. Football-wise, it’s a great passing offense and they’re definitely on the upswing.”
Brown assistant and former Moses Brown head coach Willie Edwards was Pezza’s lead recruiter in Rhode Island. When he went to Phillips Exeter, assistant Ryan Mattison became the lead. Pezza also knows Brown head coach James Perry. His brother Zach, who played at Bryant, signed there when Perry was leading the Bulldogs, before he moved over to Brown.
The offer from the Bears came in November, just a few days before a deadline Pezza had set for making the call.
“They seemed really optimistic it was going to happen,” Pezza said. “My deadline was the 15th of November. If I didn’t hear from them by then, I was going to choose somewhere else. Three days before, they gave me the offer and I pretty much accepted it an hour later.”
Between the football program and the obvious academic factors, Brown was the perfect fit. Pezza will finish out the school year at Phillips Exeter as he gets set to take the next step. He plans to major in computer science and economics. On the field, he’ll be working on speed and getting off the ball faster in the months leading up to fall camp, with an eye on contributing as soon as he can.
“They played eight wide receivers last year. I’m not expecting to play as a freshman but hopefully there will be an opportunity to play relatively early,” Pezza said. “I’m looking forward to it.”